Review by Justin Waldman for Mr. Will Wong
When we live in the world of 2022, few things are held sacred anymore and that goes to movies and spoilers especially. While it is not fair to solely blame society for this cruel reality we live in, its also fair to blame studios who love to show the final shots of a film, massive plot points, or even cameos in trailers. Thankfully, Zach Cregger’s Barbarian gives audiences just a taste of what they can expect and allows the true horrors to unfold unspoiled to the audiences. With that being said, for the integrity of the film and the audience experience, we will avoid from spoiling too much of the Film if any at all.
Barbarian focuses on our leading lady, Tess (Georgina Campbell), as she is renting an AirBnB in Detroit she is there for a job interview with a Documentarian for her newest film. Upon arriving to the odd house on the street, as everything else has been foreclosed, she is locked out, the lockbox is missing the key, and she is stuck rather helpless. After a few minutes, she sees a man, Keith (Bill Skarsgard) in the house, and finally gets a hold of them to only discover that the AirBnB has been double booked. After agreeing upon a formidable way to solve their issues, Tess stays the night, while Keith sleeps on the couch and everything is relatively normal until a strange occurrence happens. The next day, upon realizing the need some toiletries, Tess searches the house to find what she is looking for, which ends up in the basement, and she makes some ungodly discoveries. As things start to progress, not everything with this house is as it seems, and the true horror slowly starts to make itself more and more relevant and aware to what is going on around her.
What makes Barbarian so great is that Zach Cregger who also wrote the movie, never fully shows his hand too early. The entire first act the audience assumes it’s one movie, then it very quickly and disturbingly becomes a second movie where we are introduced to another character and how they fit into the story and the height of the second act ties everything together back to Tess and the house. This works so well because the duality of Horror that is presented between the unknown and the known of the allegory of the monster we already know. The social commentary built into the Horror elements shows that not all monsters, are in fact monsters, sometimes they’re the people we may look up to or idolize and sometimes they truly are creatures from the deepest darkest corners of hell itself. What Cregger does is throws all audience expectations out the window, builds a tense uneasy world for the audience to sit with and then when the audience starts to maybe feel safe again, we’re placed right back into the hellpit they thought they escaped. This creepy terrifying cringy world that Cregger has created is only amplified by his cast that delivers remarkable performances.
Georgina Campbell in one of her first leading Feature roles, absolutely carries her own and shines through. Her performance feels inspired by the legends of the past, such as Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie from Halloween. She refuses to be a victim, and does her damn best to fight for her life. Campbell absolutely nails her performance, while also proving that there is a heartbeat to her performance with some questionable character choices. As well Bill Skarsgård who has decided that he enjoys evoking terror and horrors into his audience that is certainly accustomed to his brand of horror and terror, is approaching his role of Keith differently this time as he is not the monster the audience usually expects at first appearance. Their performances are truly exceptional, and the chemistry they share shows the empathy that Georgina Campbell possesses and gives her that heart on her sleeve attribute that was mentioned before. The performances from both Bill and Georgina and the work done by Matthew Patrick Davis whose character will not be named as it is a spoiler for the Film, bring Barbarian to new found heights in the horror genre.
While Barbarian may not reinvent the horror wheel of mystery, it certainly brings some new found ability to scare the audience into submission. The creepy Visual Effects paired with the unsettling tone and nature of the Film, highlighted by the Cast exemplifies why the horror genre is alive and well and why the genre doesn’t need to rely on cheap jump scares to scare audiences, but a powerful and creepy story supported by its cast certainly is more than enough to get the job done.
20th Century Studios Canada release BARBARIAN, in theatres now.